Finances. The Cruising Kitty. Money. Moolah.

Whatever you call it, you can’t escape it.

Because I love to read about other people’s finances (might be my super-sleuth-snoopy side coming out), AND because I strongly object to the conception that this ‘cruising life’ is only for the retired-era-folk, I thought it only fair to share how Jon & I are making this all happen.

Wheat Island by Isle au Haut

So, to start with, let’s look at the purchase price of the boat:

Our goal / budget was to buy a boat for <$25,000.

Most people, when we told them this, would sort of shake their heads and turn away. Sometimes with a ‘good luck’ thrown in for good measure. While this might have seemed like a *ridiculously* small amount for a boat, the fact is that you can pretty much buy a boat for whatever amount you’d like.

For example, some of the boats we considered, looked at and bought (!!!) before finding our Nor’West 33 included:

  • A 28-foot Pearson Triton for $4,000… the seller called it ‘a lot of boat for the price’ — but really she was a nightmare of a project, and too tiny for us!
  • An Alberg 30 for $25,000, but very small again… I couldn’t hack the idea of sitting with our knees touching for the foreseeable future!
  • Pearson Vanguard 32 for $21,500 — we actually might have bought this boat if it hadn’t sold to someone else, but we did worry a little about build quality
  • Several Alberg 35s, including one for $22,000 that is still for sale, but in Panama. Jon loves the lines of Albergs, I was still stuck in the “how will we live without a quarterberth??” world
  • A Cal 34 or 35; I loved the sheer SPACE these boats have… but in the end we could not find one in any sort of decent condition that was within our budget (and they definitely did not have the ‘classic’ lines that Jon so loves going for them!)
  • LOTS of Bristol 32s; we actually ‘bought’ a $17,000 Bristol 32, that I made Jon drive 19 hours straight (in the middle of Maine winter) to go look at in North Carolina (he’s a trooper). Unfortunately, after further probing/survey, she ended up needing about 6 months and $15,000+ of work, so we sadly backed out. The second boat we bought (a beautifully re-stored Bristol 32 that we lost in a heart-wrenching bidding war to a New Yorker), was going to be $29,000. At the time we couldn’t really even afford her, but we loved her so much that we decided to try anyways.

Finally, we found Brio. She was listed for $32,500 (‘budget? what budget?’), but looked to be everything we had dreamed of. I researched articles on ‘how to negotiate for a sailboat’, and offered $25,000. After a few counter offers, a sea trial, and a survey, we settled for $26,500.

So total costs to buy the boat were as follows:

  • Sale Price: $26,500
  • Documentation: $1,000 (higher because we had to transfer from US to Canadian registration)
  • Survey & Haulout: $500
  • Flight & Bus to San Carlos; Hotel; Meals: $800

Total Cost to Buy Brio: $28,800

Cruising sailboat

So how did you guys come up with $29k??

Right, right, the details. Please note that this is just my personal story — I’m not trying to endorse or defend it, just share a little piece of how we made it happen.

I don’t know if $29,000 is a lot of money to most people, but I do know that it seemed like an enormous amount to me. After Jon & I finished our trip around Vancouver Island (a few pictures here), we realised that we really were hooked and wanting to buy a boat as quickly as financially possible. Being the patient one that I am (not), I sat down and took a hard look at how I could save the most money possible, in the least amount of time.

In the end what it came down to was a) continuing to live with my parents (whose room & board was substantially less than rent & groceries!), b) continuing to take transit (I’d sold my well-loved truck prior to moving to Australia for 6 months in 2010), and c) buckling down & working full-time for as long as it took to save up for the boat.

The net result of this was that I could save a minimum of $2000/month, and could hence buy a boat within a year.

Repairing the main sail in San Carlos

Repairing the main sail in San Carlos

What about all the other costs? Boat repairs? Cruising funds?

Since I was focused on buying the boat, Jon (who runs a painting business in Maine) was able to focus on the cruising kitty & repairs for Brio.

We budgeted to live on $1000/month; this was based on our cheap lifestyles (Jon is a lentil pro) as well as Mom & Dad’s figures from cruising in 1998 – 2002.

$1k/month was still just a budget, and as you can see from our true costs, it’s not exactly 100% accurate. I’m pretty sure that the best advice really is ‘it costs whatever you have’!

What makes our finances a little different from other people setting out to cruise is that we have no intention of cruising year-round. Instead, the plan is for both of us to return to North America for the summers, work for 6 months (enjoying the nice summer months & saving enough for the following winter), and then return to the boat every fall. We don’t know how far we’ll get, or how long we’ll do this for, but that’s part of the fun!

Especially because we own the boat outright, the two of us can quite comfortably put $6000/each aside during the 6 summer months that we’re home working (Jon with his business and me with mine). This means (in theory) that we have a working fund of $12,000 to put towards any updates for the boat, and our 6 months of cruising.

**I will also mention that I am somewhat able to continue working remotely during the winter, which enables me to bring in a small amount of income during the winter… this helps take the pressure off the summer savings craze!**

Synchronicity's Empty Hull

1995: Me in the empty hull of Synchronicity, prior to dad installing *anything*

The other thing?

I’ve done this once before. My family spent 4 years full-time cruising, without any breaks or trips “home”. To do this they spent 3 years building the boat, 3 years saving & living aboard, sold EVERYthing they owned, and then invested it all in the best four-year education money can buy.

And while I absolutely admire every decision they made, I know that I am not NEARLY patient enough to save for 3 years; that I get bored easily; and that ‘coming home’ after extended years of cruising to a life without a huge, all-consuming goal is one of the hardest things to consider doing. All based on my very limited experience, of course, but that’s the philosophy.

So will this plan / budget / dream work out?

Only time will tell… but Magic 8 ball says yes!

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